Posts Tagged ‘heart attack’

Critical Illness Insurance Claims Often Begin Prior To Age 55

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Just under half (47%) of new critical illness insurance claims in 2011 began prior to age 55 according to the 2012 Buyer & Claimant Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance (AACII) and General Re Life Corporation.  This marks a significant increase in claims by younger policyholders compared to the prior year’s analysis.

The percentage of claims that occurred before age 45 grew compared to 2010.  Some 13 percent of male policyholders and 12 percent of female policyholders who received benefits were younger than 45 according to the data from 10 leading critical illness insurers.  “The increase in younger claimants is likely due to an increase in younger buyers of this relatively new form of insurance coverage,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the recently formed critical illness insurance trade group.  “With higher health insurance deductibles and more restrictive plans, critical illness insurance is starting to gain traction among buyers in their 30s and 40s.”
The study found a pronounced year-to-year increase in the number of claims paid to policyholders between ages 35 and 44.  Some 8 percent of new claims by men and 10 percent women occurred at these ages in 2011, versus four percent reported by the prior year’s study.   The greatest decline in claims occurred after age 55.

The study revealed that cancer remains the leading cause for new individual claims accounting for 61 percent of new claims.  Heart attacks accounted for 11 percent and stroke for 18 percent of new claims.

Researchers analyzed data for over 57,000 purchasers of individual critical illness insurance policies as well as claims reported by leading insurers for the time period January 1 to December 31, 2011. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  Free access to the organization’s online learning, marketing and sales center is offered to insurance and financial professionals.  For further information, visit the Website:  www.aacii.org/ or call (818) 597-3205.

Height Plays Role In Heart Failure

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Men who are six feet tall or taller have a significantly lower risk of having heart failure according to new research.

Heart failure affects nearly five million Americans according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.   Heart failure is defined as a condition when the heart is too weak to pump blood and oxygen to the body’s organs.

Researchers analyzed data from over 22,000 male doctors who were divided into four categories based on their height.  The scientists found that the tallest doctors, those who were between six feet and six feet eight inches saw a 24 percent drop in the risk of developing heart failure compared to the doctors in the shortest category.  These doctors were five feet seven inches tall or shorter.

“Heart disease and heart failure is no longer an immediate death sentence but the financial ramifications are enormous forcing many Americans into bankruptcy,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  “Some 60 percent of bankruptcies are due to medical bills and 78 percent of these individuals had health insurance when the health incident first occurred.”

“Heart disease is one of the leading critical illnesses impacting men along with cancer,” Slome explains.  There were 780,000 new coronary attacks this year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org report.  “Today heart attacks are survivable but  medical expenses are now a leading cause of financial bankruptcy,” Slome adds.  “Even the best insurance policies no longer cover every cost associated with treating cancers and families face huge expenses.”

Individuals interested in receiving a cost quote for critical illness insurance from a designated American Association for Critical Illness Insurance professional can complete the organization’s free quote request form accessible at http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org or obtain information by calling the Association’s offices.

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Heart Disease

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Individuals with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are at significantly higher risk for a variety of heart diseases.

According to a new study increasing levels of vitamin D with supplements reduced a person’s risk of dying from any cause.  The significant reduction was compared to someone who remained deficient in the vitamin.

Researchers at the University of Kansas analyzed data on more than 10,000 patients and reported that 70 percent were deficient in vitamin D and these individuals proved to be at significantly higher risk for a variety of heart diseases.

The scientists reported that D-deficiency also nearly doubled a person’s likelihood of dying.  The study authors note that when individuals corrected the deficiency with supplements they lowered their risk of death by 60 percent.

“Other studies have discussed the importance of vitamin D to good overall health,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org. “It is very valuable to see that there is such a strong relationship between heart disease and vitamin D deficiency.”

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of illnesses, but few studies have demonstrated that supplements could prevent those outcomes.

Among the individuals tested more than 70 percent of the patients were below 30 Nano grams per milliliter, the level many experts consider sufficient for good health.  After taking into account the patients’ medical history, medications and other factors, cardiologists discovered that those individuals with deficient levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to have diabetes, 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and about 30 percent more likely to suffer from a diseased heart muscle,  as people without D deficiency.

Previous research has indicated that many Americans don’t have sufficient levels of vitamin D, however. The latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 25 percent to 57 percent of adults have insufficient levels of D, and other studies have suggested the number is as high as 70 percent.

Nearly one million Americans will have anew coronary attack this year according to AACII and heart attack, cancer and stroke are the three leading critical illnesses impacting millions of families each year.  “Few families are financially prepared for all the uncovered and related expenses,” Slome adds, “which is why we have mounted a campaign to educate individuals between ages 30 and 50 about critical illness insurance protection which pays a lump sum cash amount upon diagnosis of a major condition.”

For more information on critical illness insurance, visit the Association’s Consumer Information Center at http://www.criticalillnessinsuranceinfo.org/learning-center/.  For information on long term care insurance, visit the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance’s educational website http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/ – long term care insurance.

New Information Can Help Predict Who’ll Survive Heart Attack

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Important news for the nearly one million Americans who will have their first heart attack over the next 12 months.  Researchers report that it may be possible to predict who will survive or die as a result of that attack. 

According to the new study which analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people there are traits that could predict the risk that a heart attack would be fatal. Those traits included having high blood pressure, being black and having a very high body mass index which is a measurement based on height and weight. 

“For some people, the first heart attack is more likely to end their life,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade group.  “But increasingly more people are surviving heart attacks as well as cancer and strokes.”

The researchers found that in general blacks are at higher risk than non-blacks of sudden cardiac death, in which the heart suddenly stops beating.  But, they noted, they are at less risk of coronary heart disease. 

High blood pressure and increased heart rate were stronger predictors of sudden cardiac death than coronary heart disease.   Extreme high or low BMI was predictive of increased risk of sudden cardiac death, but not of coronary heart disease. 

Certain markers that can be identified by doctors evaluating patients’ electrocardiograms are associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive director.

Family History Better Predictor of Heart Attack Than Stroke

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Family genetics may play more of a role in your risk of a heart attack than strokes. 

New research conducted at the University of Birmingham in England suggests that a family history of heart attack appears to be a stronger risk factor for heart attack than a family history of stroke is for stroke. 

Nearly 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year and about 600,000 will experience their first stroke according to a report from the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks health-related data.  “Both stroke and heart attack are leading health conditions that can financially wipe out a family,” explains Jesse Slome, the association’s executive duirector. 

Researchers noted that their findings would be helpful to doctors as a means of predicting a patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke.   The scientists collected data on nearly 1,000 people who had heart attacks and 1,015 stroke survivors. 

Among those with heart disease, 30 percent had a parent with a heart attack and 21 percent had a sibling with a heart attack, the researchers found.  Seven percent had two or more siblings who suffered heart attacks, and 5 percent reported both parents had had heart attacks. 

On the other hand, 21 percent of those who suffered a stroke or transient ischemic attack, considered a minor stroke, had at least one parent with a stroke, and 8 percent had a brother or sister with a stroke. 

Two percent of the stroke survivors had two parents with strokes, while 14 percent had at least two siblings with a stroke, the researchers found.  When two parents had suffered a heart attack, the risk of heart attack increased six times.  If one parent suffered a heart attack, the risk was 1.5 times greater for their offspring.

Stroke risk did not change substantially based on parental stroke history, the authors said. 

“Individuals in their 40s and 50s should recognize that a family history of heart disease can be important information about future risk of having a heart attack,” Slome explains. “With greater risk comes a greater need to plan.”

Fruit And Veggies Can Cut Dying From Heart Disease

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. 

According to researchers who analyzed data from more than 300,000 people from eight European countries, there is just one more reason to eat vegetables and fruit daily.

Individuals between ages 40 to 85 who took part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study were followed for an average of nearly 8.5 years. 

The findings published online in the European Heart Journal found that there were 1,636 deaths from ischemic heart disease, which is the most common form of heart disease and a leading cause of death in Europe. 

According to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, people with ischemic heart disease have reduced blood flow to the heart, which can cause angina, chest pain and heart attack. 

According to the study results, people who ate at least eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 22 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease than those who ate fewer than three portions a day. A portion was considered to be 80 grams, which would equal a small banana, a medium apple or a small carrot. 

For each additional portion above the lowest intake of two portions, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease was reduced by 4 percent, the study authors noted. 

The risk of a fatal ischemic heart disease for someone eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day would be 4 percent lower compared to someone consuming four portions a day, and so on up to eight portions or more. 

The main message from this analysis is that people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.

Diet With Vitamin B Is Heart Healthy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

According to Japanese researchers who analyzed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and almost 36,000 women part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study diets with good levels of the vitamin are good for your heart.

The study found that women who ate more foods with the B-vitamins folate and B-6 were less likely to die from stroke and heart disease, while men who ate a diet high in these B-vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.  The study appears online in the journal Stroke.

During a median 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the people died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin B-12 intake was not associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers believe that folate and vitamin B-6 may help protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that’s affected by diet and heredity. Previous research suggests that too much homocysteine may damage the inner lining of arteries and promote the formation of blood clots.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance library of information, fish, liver, meats, whole grains and fortified cereals are sources of vitamin B-6, while vegetables and fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans and legumes are sources of folate.

Early EKG Improves Survival Odds From Heart Attack

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The research found that these people often were able to bypass the emergency room and go directly to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for treatment with what’s commonly known as an angioplasty. 

Findings published in the January issue of Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions report those given an EKG by paramedics were treated 60 minutes, on average, after reaching the hospital, compared with 91 minutes for people who did not have an EKG before arriving at the hospital. 

Research has shown that rapid angioplasty treatment reduces the chances of dying within the next year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks informatioon on surving cancer, heart attacks or stroke, the three primary critical illnesses. 

For the study, the researchers examined medical records for cardiac patients taken to three hospitals in Southeast Michigan for five years to 2008.   Of those who did not have an EKG done before arrival, 2 percent died in the hospital. None of the patients who were given pre-arrival EKGs died in the hospital, the study reported.

Erectile Dysfunction Predicts Heart Disease

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

According to a report published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology erectile dysfunction is among the list of known risk factors determined by the Framingham Heart Study.  Other risk factors include cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.  Nearly 800,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year reports the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  The average age for heart attacks among men is 64. 

The study followed 1,057 men, aged 40 to 70, for an average of 12 years. Overall, 37 percent of the men with erectile dysfunction were in the high-risk category according to the Framingham standards, compared with 17 percent of men without erectile dysfunction. 

Once the link to cardiovascular problems was established, researchers started modeling to see if adding erectile dysfunction to the risk profile could reclassify some men.  Over the years, studies of a number of diagnostic techniques — including computerized tomography scanning and various molecular markers, such as inflammation-related C-reactive protein — have been shown not to improve on the Framingham profile’s predictive power. 

Medical experts note that other tests and measures are either costly, require blood tests or carry some risk, whereas erectile dysfunction can be determined by a simple question.  They advise doctors to ask a simple question in the office that will reveal a diagnosis very clearly.

It is also information that men should offer to their doctors which can lead to preventive therapy that can be lifesaving.

Excess Protein in Urine Is Indicator of Heart Disease Risk Among Whites

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine note that proteinuria, a long accepted indicator of heart disease risk, has far less impact on blacks than it does on whites.   Medical experts believe that the more protein in a patient’s urine, the greater the risk for heart disease and stroke. 

The study indicates that excess protein in the urine — a common finding with progressive kidney disease in individuals with diabetes — is strongly associated with calcium deposition in the major arteries in white patients, but not in black patients.  Therefore, they conclude, that proteinuria appears to be associated with an increased risk of heart attack in the white ethnic group. There may be biologic factors predisposing whites to heart disease or protecting blacks from developing it, the scientists note.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks data related to cancer, heart disease and stroke, in the general community, blacks have more heart disease risk factors than whites, including higher blood pressures and LDL (known as “bad”) cholesterol levels, and higher blood sugars in patients with diabetes. As such, they face a higher risk for heart attack than whites. 

Several large studies have shown that despite having more risk factors for hardening of the arteries, black men had less calcium in the heart arteries — one-eighth the amount — compared to white men. In addition, given access to equivalent healthcare as whites, blacks with diabetes face only half the risk of a heart attack, indicating that blacks appear to somehow be protected from the cardiovascular effects of these risk factors. 

The researchers evaluated whether excess protein excretion in the urine — a major heart disease risk factor in whites — was also a risk factor for heart and vascular disease in blacks. The level of urine protein was examined in over 800 white participants and nearly 400 black participants, all with diabetes. Participants were also tested for atherosclerosis, based on the buildup of calcium in their major arteries. 

The research team found that in the white population, greater amounts of protein in the urine were directly associated with higher levels of atherosclerosis. This association, however, was not seen in the black study population. 

The study appears in the January issue of Diabetes Care.

Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Researchers at the University of Rochester explain that darker skin reduces production of vitamin D, which is made during exposure to sunlight.  They note that several studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Medical experts noted that people with dark skin who live at higher latitudes, where the intensity of sunlight is less, may be at greater risk.

As estimated 80 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Nearly 800,000 have a new coronary attack each year.

Doctors at the University of California, Davis examined data on more than 15,000 U.S. adults in a national nutritional study. They found that overall, the 25 percent of adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death. When they singled out blacks, the report found a 38 percent higher incidence of such deaths than among whites. Most of that difference was related to lower levels of vitamin D. 

A second issue concerns the proper level of intake of the vitamin.  The experts noted that a consensus is evolving that the current levels recommended are too low, and those with darker skin need higher levels.

The current recommendation is a daily intake of 400 International Units (IUs) for most adults, and 600 IU for those over 70.

Study Reveals Risk Of Having A Critical Illness Before Age 65

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

 A 25-year-old male non-smoker has a 24 percent chance of having a critical illness (cancer, heart attack or stroke) prior to turning age 65.   The same-aged male who smokes has a 49 percent chance according to the first National Critical Illness Risk Assessment Study published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

“Cancer, heart attacks and strokes happen at all ages and most people are not prepared for either the emotional or financial cost,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization.  “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses and 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance when they were first diagnosed.”

The national critical illness risk assessment prepared by Milliman, Inc., a leading actuarial firm, reveals the likelihood of incurring a critical illness for men and women at different ages up to age 55.  According to the study’s findings, women face less risk than men at all ages.  Non-smoking women are at significantly less risk than their male smoking counterparts.  While nearly half (49 percent) of 35-year-old male tobacco users will incur a critical illness before age 65, only 35 percent of female smokers will according to the report. 

REPORTERS:  If you would like the complete finding of the study with breakdown by ages, please call the Association at (818) 597-3205 or E-mail Jesse Slome at mailto:jslome @ aaltci.org

The study reveals that 17 percent of non-smoking men and 36 percent of male smokers who reach the age of 55 without having a critical illness will be diagnosed with one prior to turning age 65.  For women who reach age 55, some 12 percent of non-smokers and 23 percent of smokers will face a critical illness before reaching age 65.

INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS:  The complete findings are available to Association members.  Click here for membership information.

“Surviving a critical illness is likely today as a result of advances in emergency treatment and medical care,” states Slome.  “Survival comes with a high cost even for those with health insurance which often is accompanied by co-pays, high deductibles and exclusions for various new treatments.”   Michelle Dyke, actuary with Milliman, adds, “there are substantial non-medical expenses associated with battling a critical illness including travel expenses to see specialists and lost wages that health insurance does not cover.”

Critical illness insurance pays a tax-free, lump-sum cash benefit generally upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness.  The first policies became available in the United States in 1996 and today some 600,000 individuals have such protection.

The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance is the national trade association providing information to consumers and insurance professionals.  The organization is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Menstruation Linked To Heart Disease Risk

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Researchers have found that among nearly 16,000 middle-aged and older women followed for more than a decade, those who’d started menstruating before age 12 were 23 percent more likely to develop heart disease and 28 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular causes like heart attack or stroke. 

These women also had a 22 percent higher overall death rate and a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer, according to findings published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

Previous studies have found evidence that early menstrual periods can affect health later in life.  A large study of Norwegian women, for instance, found that those who began menstruating before age 12 were slightly more likely to die during the 37-year study period than their peers who’d begun menstruating at age 14. 

Another study linked earlier menarche to a higher risk of diabetes in adulthood — a connection that appeared to be explained by higher body mass index (BMI) among women who’d begun menstruating earlier. 

Early menarche remained linked to higher risks of coronary heart disease and deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer after the researchers accounted for a number of other factors — such as age, BMI, smoking, exercise habits and education. 

A number of studies have linked early menarche to an increased risk of breast cancer — possibly due to greater lifetime exposure to estrogen.  Women with an early menarche also had higher rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol — but the reasons for that are unknown. 

Posted by American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Breast-Feeding May Help A Woman’s Heart

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Researchers found that those women who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care had previously looked at breast-feeding’s effect on older women.  Their study found that post-menopausal women who had breast-fed were less likely to report having heart disease.  Another study on breast-feeding from a different research group recently reported in the journal Diabetes that women who breast-fed were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that indicate an increased risk for heart disease.

The current study included women who had at least one baby. At the time of the study, they were 45 to 58 years old, had never been diagnosed with heart disease and had no known symptoms of heart disease.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the women who had not breast-fed had coronary artery calcification, compared with 17 percent of the breast-feeding moms. The researchers found calcifications in 39 percent of the aortas of women who hadn’t breast-fed, versus 17 percent of the women who had. They also found plaque deposits in the carotid artery of 18 percent of the women who had not breast-fed and 10 percent of those who had.

After adjusting the data for socioeconomic status, family history and lifestyle factors, heart disease risk factors and body mass, the researchers concluded that women who had not breast-fed were five times more likely to have aortic calcifications than women who consistently breast-fed. 

Report prepared by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Check out the website for costs for critical illness insurance coverage.

Heart Disease To Cost $503 Billion In 2010

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The record amount represents an increase of nearly 6 percent, and many cases could have been prevented, according to the American Heart Association report. 

The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease, according to an update published online in the journal Circulation.  An estimated 80 million Americans – about one in three – have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Obesity and other risk factors, like too little exercise and poor diet, are fueling the expected increase in health care costs associated with heart disease and stroke.  Current statistical data shows Americans to be on average overweight, physically inactive and eating a diet that is too high in calories, sodium, fat and sugar according to the head of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee. 

According to the heart association, 59 percent of adults who responded to a 2008 national survey described themselves as physically inactive.  The report also says fewer than half of people with heart disease symptoms are receiving cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths globally in 2005. 

The heart association said the number of inpatient cardiovascular operations and procedures jumped 33 percent from 1996 to 2006, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.

First National Critical Illness Insurance Study Examines U.S. Buyers

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Nearly half of individuals purchasing critical illness insurance protection were under age 45 according to the first national study of buyers conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

The industry trade group released the findings of a study that reveals one third (34%) of purchasers were between ages 45 and 54 and the majority (87%) purchased $50,000 or less in benefits.  The study examined sales data for over 130,000 individual and voluntary worksite policies and certificates issued. 

“Critical illness insurance is growing in acceptance as consumers understand the risk and financial exposure resulting from cancer, a heart attack or stroke,” explains Jesse Slome, the organization’s executive director.   First introduced in the United States in 1996, some 600,000 individuals have purchased critical illness coverage available from about 20 insurance companies.             

Nearly a quarter (24%) of individual buyers opted for coverage of less than $20,000 according to the study’s findings.  For those purchasing in the worksite setting, some 65 percent chose benefits of $20,000 or less.              

The vast majority of purchasers do so prior to turning age 55.  Among those purchasing individual critical illness insurance policies, 20 percent were under age 35; 27 percent were between ages 35 and 44 and 34 percent were between 45 and 54.  Buyers purchasing coverage in the workplace were about the same age according to the Association report.  Policies providing a $10,000 benefit for a 40 year old can range from $150 to $300-per-year. 

Individual buyers tended to be male (52% versus 48% female) while those purchasing in the workplace were more likely to be female (59% versus 41% male). 

“We anticipate the market for critical illness insurance products will increase in the years ahead,” predicts Slome.  The Los Angeles-based association will undertake an aggressive consumer awareness campaign in 2010 to build an understanding of the benefits of the protection that is popular outside of the United States.  “Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with a critical illness and the vast majority survive,” Slome explains.  “The financial cost even for those with health insurance can be devastating and one of the leading reasons 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy even before the current economic crisis.”  Critical illness insurance policies range in cost based on the age, sex and use of tobacco products.  A policy providing a $10,000 cash benefit can range from about $150 a year to $400 a year experts explain.

The full study results can be viewed online: Go to: <a href>http://www.aacii.org</a>.

Ginkgo Won’t Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke in Elderly

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Researchers report that the herbal supplement may help ward off peripheral artery disease.  According to the findings of a new study, the popular herbal remedy might help prevent the leg-circulation problem known as peripheral artery disease.  

Ginkgo contains nutrients called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine, and are believed to offer some protection against cardiovascular events, according to the researchers.   The supplement, increasingly popular in the United States and Europe, has been touted to improve memory, and to prevent dementia, heart disease and stroke. 

Reserachers at the University of Pittsburgh found that ginkgo had no benefit in preventing heart attack or stroke.  Consistent with observations of researchers in Europe, the medical experts noted that ginkgo appeared to have some benefit in preventing peripheral vascular disease.

Last year the same University of Pittsburgh team reported that ginkgo biloba had no effect on preventing dementia.  For their latest study, reearchers randomly assigned 3,069 patients to 120 milligrams of highly purified ginkgo biloba or placebo, twice a day as part of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study.

Over the six years of the trial, 385 participants died, 164 had heart attacks, 151 had strokes, 73 had mini-strokes (“transient ischemic attacks”) and 207 had chest pain, the researchers found.  There was no significant difference between those taking ginkgo or placebo for any of these outcomes, the study reports.

However, among the 35 people who were treated for peripheral artery disease, 23 received placebo and 12 were taking ginkgo — a statistically significance difference, the researchers noted.  About 8 million Americans have peripheral artery disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.

Peripheral artery disease typically affects the arteries in the pelvis and legs. Symptoms include cramping and pain or tiredness in the hip muscles and legs when walking or climbing stairs, although not everyone who has PAD is symptomatic. The pain usually subsides during rest.

Moderate Drinking May Help Your Heart

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

The type of alcohol — beer, wine or spirits — made no difference, the researchers reported in the Nov. 19 online issue of Heart. The Spanish analysis used 10-year data on over 40,000 men and women who were participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer study. 

But for men, there was a point at which the coronary benefits of alcohol declined, and risk began to rise again.  The rate of coronary heart disease for non-drinking women in the study was 56 per 100,000. For women listed as low drinkers, averaging less than 5 grams a day, it was 42. For women who were moderate drinkers (5 to 30 grams a day), it was 36; for high drinkers (30 to 90 grams a day) it was 12; and for heavy drinkers (more than 90 grams a day) it was 12. 

The rates for men were 398 per 100,000 for those who never drank, 318 for low drinkers, 255 for moderate drinkers, 278 for high drinkers and 334 for heavy drinkers, the researchers reported.

The report showing that the source of alcohol made no difference does help puncture one explanation for what has come to be called the “French paradox,” the low level of heart disease seen in that country despite consumption of what Americans would describe as an unhealthy, fat-rich diet. Some experts have attributed the paradox to the beneficial effects of red wine. 

A number of well-done studies have shown that people who drink have higher levels of HDL cholesterol.  HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind that prevents formation of artery-blocking plaque deposits. 

The American Heart Association recommendation is that “if you drink, do so in moderation.” That means one to two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a woman, with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Every 34 seconds an American will suffer a heart attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  

SOURCES: Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor, epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., internist, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, associate professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Nov. 19, 2009, Heart, online.

Diuretics Still Best Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Medical researchers reported the findings of a study at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association this week.   They reported that the thiazide-type diuretic chlorthalidone outshone three other treatments — a calcium channel blocker, an ACE inhibitor and an alpha-receptor blocker — in most areas.  This was especially effective in lowering the incidence of stroke and heart failure. 

An estimated 80 million American adults have one or more types of cardiovascular disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Some 785,000 will have a new coronary attack this year according to the industry trade group. 

The findings the medical experts note are largely unchanged.  They note that the main message is that treating hypertension [high blood pressure] is very necessary and that treating hypertension with chlorthalidone resulted in a significant reduction in heart failure and stroke. 

The original trial, begun in 1994, involved more than 42,000 patients with hypertension and at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The participants were randomly assigned to take one of the following anti-hypertensive drugs: chlorthalidone (the diuretic), amlodipine besylate (the calcium channel blocker), doxazosin mesylate (the alpha blocker) or lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor). 

The five-year follow-up, which ended in 2002, was intended to see if new differences emerged with long-term use of the medications, especially regarding coronary heart disease, total mortality, heart failure and aggregate cardiovascular disease. 

This is the largest hypertension trial to date, one researcher noted.  Earlier results had also found that diuretics were as good or better than other blood pressure-lowering drugs for treating hypertension in patients with metabolic syndrome (a collection of factors that put people at risk of heart disease), especially black patients.

Rapid Cooling May Help When Heart Attack Hits

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Swedish researchers examined the use of a device called RhinoChill, which cools the brains of heart attack patients during ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

The median time between cardiac arrest onset and the start of cooling was 23 minutes. On arrival at hospital, the average body temperature of cooled patients was 93.56 degrees F, compared with 95.9 degrees for standard care patients. 

The study found that 46.7 percent of patients in the cooling group survived to hospital discharge, compared with 31 percent of patients who received standard care.   In addition, some 36.7 percent of those in the cooling group and 21.4 percent of those in the standard care group were in good neurological condition when discharged from the hospital. 

Patients who received a combination of early CPR — started within six minutes of collapse — and cooling had the best outcomes.   The researchers noted that the earlier you can do the cooling, the better. When resuscitation efforts were delayed, there was no significant difference in survival.  

The study was to be presented Nov. 15 at an American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some785,000 Americans will have a new cornary attack this year.

Low Vitamin D Linked To Heart, Stroke Deaths

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 

A new study reports that adults with lower, versus higher, vitamin D levels in their blood may be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin mostly obtained from direct sunlight exposure, but also found in foods and multivitamins.  Researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in several thousand men and 3,402 women.

Participants were just over 49 years old on average at the beginning of the research and had no indicators of cardiovascular disease.  During follow-up of about 27 years on average, 640 of the participants (358 men) died from heart disease and another 293 (122 men) died from stroke.

Compared with participants’ with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest had 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, the researchers noted.  There was a “particularly striking association” between vitamin D levels and stroke deaths, they explain.  Those having the lowest vitamin D seemed to confer “twice the risk,” compared with those having the highest vitamin D.

Allowing for age, gender, and other demographic factors, plus alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and season in which vitamin D levels were obtained did not significantly alter these associations.  In this study, vitamin D levels were “substantially lower” than levels thought to be sufficient, and “somewhat lower” than those reported in previous studies in other European and American populations.

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the non-profit industry organization, some 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack this year.  From 1995 to 2005, the death rate from coronary heart disease declined 34 percent.  The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Women Having More Heart Attacks. They’re More Likely To Survive

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Two new studies reveal that men still have a higher prevalence of heart attack than women.  Medical researchers report that the gap has narrowed as heart attacks among women have increased while they have decreased among men.

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California revealed that 2.5 percent of the men and 0.7 percent of the women reported a history of heart attacks in the prior surveys.  In the more recent study, they found 2.2 percent of men and 1 percent of women reported heart attacks. 

The narrowing of the male-female difference is easily explained, according to medical experts.  They point to the fact that risk factors are being better controlled in men than in women.  In men, levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol remained the same between the two surveys, while levels of “good” HDL cholesterol improved. Blood pressure levels improved, and fewer men smoked. 

Researchers noted that the improvements for women were marginal, with LDL cholesterol levels about the same. The only risk factor that improved in women was HDL cholesterol. Diabetes and obesity increased in both men and women, the study found.

Protein May Predict Heart Attack

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

According to a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology the C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation in the blood, may predict those at higher risk for heart attack and death but not stroke. 

The study involved over 2,200 people who were 40 years old or older and stroke-free.  All participants had their blood tested for CRP levels and were evaluated for stroke and heart attack risk factors. 

Participants were followed for an average of eight years. In that time, there were 198 strokes, 156 heart-related events and 586 deaths.  The group was comprised of 63 percent Hispanic, 20 percent non-Hispanic black and 15 percent non-Hispanic white residents. 

The study’s researchers found that people with CRP levels greater than three milligrams per liter were 70 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack and 55 percent more likely to die early compared to people who had levels of one milligram per liter or less of the protein in their blood. The protein was not associated with an increased risk of stroke once other risk factors were taken into account.

Prior studies have found the C-reactive protein to be a marker for predicting risk of heart disease.  CRP protein levels are associated with such medical and lifestyle risk factors as diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.   A lead researcher noted that by living a healthy lifestyle, one may be able to lower these protein levels, thus lowering the risk of cardiac events and possibly early death.   The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Return to the Association’s home page.  Click here.

Aging Heart Can Be Prevented

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Old age is a major risk factor for heart failure, a condition when the heart is unable to pump enough blood around to supply the oxygen the body needs.  Some 5.7 million Americans have heart failure, and nearly 10 out of every 1,000 people over age 65 suffer heart failure every year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance

Japanese researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto described how they managed to suppress a variety of the P13K gene in a group of elderly mice.  The gene regulates the lifespan of cells and plays a role in the aging of tissues. 

Prior studies found that the suppression of this gene extended the lifespan roundworm and kept the hearts of old fruit flies healthy.  The Japanese researchers reported that compared with another group of mice in which the gene was left intact, mice with the suppressed gene had improved cardiac function and fewer biological markers of aging. 

The medical researchers noted that mice are considered a good surrogate for studies of human diseases and conditions.  Their body plan, physiology and genome share many features with humans they note. The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

Dental Plaque May Raise Heart Risk in Black Men

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

October 6, 2009.  Neglecting oral hygene could place black males at increased risk for heart problems a new study reveals.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Dentistry studied women and men who were asked to neglect their oral hygiene as part of the study.  The researchers were seeking to determine whether there would be equal buildup of dental plaque caused a change in total white blood cell count, a known risk factor for heart problems.

They found that the accumulation of dental plaque accumulation in black males was associated with a significant increase in the activity of white blood cells called neutrophils, an important part of the immune system, the researchers noted.  An elevated white blood cell count is one of the major risks for heart attack, previous research has found.

Medical experts noted that when a bacterial infection occurs anywhere in the body, billions of neutrophils are produced in the bone marrow to defend against the intruder.  The researchers observed that with poor dental hygiene, white blood cell activity increased in black men but not black women or whites of either sex.  The findings they note suggest both gender and racial differences in the inflammatory response to dental plaque. 

None of the study participants had periodontal (gum) disease.  the study authors explained.  The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

To obtain a no-obligation quote for critical illness insurance go to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance’s Consumer Information Center or click on this link.

Drug Duo May Reduce Heart Attack And Strokes

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A combination of cholesterol and blood pressure medicine can cut the incidence of attacks by up to 60 percent according to a new study.

According to Kaiser Permanente researchers, an inexpensive combination of one drug used to lower cholesterol and another medication used to lower blood pressure can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 60 percent.

“An American suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, a national trade organization. “Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, making these two of the most common critical illnesses afflicting individuals.”

Giving the drugs to nearly 70,000 people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes prevented an estimated 1,271 heart attacks and strokes in one year, Dr. James Dudl of Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute and his colleagues reported in the American Journal of Managed Care.

According to reports, the inspiration for the study resulted from the Archimedes Model, a sophisticated computer simulation of the human body that predicted that lowering blood pressure and cholesterol simultaneously in those at the highest risk for cardiovascular problems. The Model predicted that the combination could reduce the incidence by 71 percent. The report noted that no study had been performed to test the prediction.

The Kaiser team chose two generic drugs, lovastatin for cholesterol and lisinopril for blood pressure, and offered them to 170,000 members of their managed-care programs in Northern and Southern California who suffered from heart disease or diabetes.

Some of the patients were already taking one of the drugs, but none of those selected was taking both. About 75 percent were also taking daily aspirin, but the researchers did not include aspirin in the protocol because they had no way to monitor usage.

They began the program in 2004 with nearly 70,000 patients. The team monitored compliance for two years by checking whether and how often patients refilled their prescriptions, then monitored health effects in the third year through the patients’ health records.

Some 47,268 patients had what the team termed “low exposure” to the drugs, taking them less than half the time. Their risk of hospitalization for heart attack or stroke was lowered by 15 events per 1,000 person-years, and an estimated 726 events were prevented.

Flu Can Increase Heart Attack Risk

Friday, September 25th, 2009

British researchers report.that both seasonal and the pandemic H1N1 swine flu will put more people at risk for heart attacks.  They urged those most prone, especially those with heart disease and diabetes, to get a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot which may reduce the chance of getting the flu and thereby lower the risk for a heart attack.

In thre United States someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds and 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack this year according to data published by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, an industry trade group.

Medical experts note that influenza – or the flu – is most concerning because of its secondary complications.  They note that death or hospitalization isn’t because of the influenza but rather it’s because influenza puts you in a weakened state and is a stress on the system.  The British researchers noted that the flu virus may have a negative effect directly on the heart.

To determine the risk of heart attack among those with flu, researchers at the UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in London, reviewed nearly 40 studies conducted between 1932 and 2008.  The studies showed an increase in deaths from heart disease and more heart attacks during flu season.

Excess deaths because of heart disease averaged 35 percent to 50 percent, according to the report in the October issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.  The studies also showed that getting a flu shot reduced the risk of dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology strongly recommend that all individuals with cardiovascular disease receive annual influenza vaccination.

Vitamin D Proves Heart Healthy

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

An estimated 800,000 Americans will have a first heart attack this year and the combined financial cost of heart attacks and strokes is over $225 billion.  Most personal bankruptcies today are directly tied to medical and healthcare costs.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital studied the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and the death rates of those 65 and older.  

Researchers found that older adults with insufficient levels of vitamin D die from heart disease at greater rates that those with adequate levels of the vitamin.  The results are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

It’s likely that more than one-third of older adults now have vitamin D levels associated with higher risks of death and few have levels associated with optimum survival noted the lead author on the study. 

The study noted that older adults are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency often because their skin has less exposure to the sun as a result of less time spent outdoors as well as the body’s reduced ability to make vitamin D.

The study analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics that was of the 24 million older adults in the United States. Compared to those with optimal vitamin D status, those with low vitamin D levels were 3 times more likely to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause.

“Vitamin D has health effects that go beyond strong bones,” one of the researchers explained. “It’s likely that it makes a vital contribution to good health.”

Weight Loss Good For Kidney Health

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Medical experts explain that kidneys filter waste products from the blood and excrete them in the urine. When damaged, their ability to perform these vital functions is reduced. 

Some 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and millions of others are at increased risk.  By 2015, experts predict there will be more than 700,000 people with the most advanced form of kidney disease known as end-stage renal disease.

More than a third of US adults are either overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for kidney trouble, not to mention heart trouble and diabetes.   To determine if weight loss could help protect the kidneys, medical researchers at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic studied data from studies that examined the impact on kidney function of weight loss achieved through diet, exercise, or surgery.

The researchers found that losing weight through diet and exercise reduced one key measure of kidney damage – namely, excess excretion of protein in the urine, what doctors call “proteinuria.”   The medical report noted that weight loss achieved through surgery seemed to help normalize the rate at which the kidneys filter waste products in obese adults with abnormally high filtration rates.

The findings were reported in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology.

Middle-Age Heart Risk Factors Shorten Men’s Lives

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Although death from heart disease has been declining, in part due to better control of cardiovascular risk factors and better care, a study by British researchers looks at death from heart disease in terms of life expectancy.

The researchers collected data on nearly 19,000 men ranging from 49 to 69 years of age. The men were first evaluated between 1967-1970.  At the start of the study, the men completed a questionnaire that included questions about their medical history, smoking, employment and marital status. In addition, height, weight, blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were also measured.

After about 28 years of follow-up, 7,044 surviving men were examined again in 1997.  When the study began, 42 percent of the men smoked, 39 percent had high blood pressure and 51 percent had high cholesterol. By 1997, about two-thirds had stopped smoking and their blood pressure and cholesterol levels had also dropped, the researchers noted.

Despite these changes in risk factors for heart disease, men who had three heart risk factors in middle age had a threefold higher risk of dying from heart disease and a twofold increased risk of dying from other causes, compared with men with none of these risk factors, the study found.

Men who had all three risk factors at the time they entered the study lived 10 years less than men with none of the risk factors. Life expectancy after 50 was an additional 23.7 years for men with three risk factors, compared with 33.3 years for men without the risk factors, the researchers found.

Individuals who choose to not treat and control these major cardiovascular risk factors should recognize they may be giving up, on average, as much as 10 to 15 years of life by doing so, te research team reported.  The study was published in the Sept. 18 online edition of the British Medical Journal,

SOURCES: Robert Clarke, M.D., reader in epidemiology, University of Oxford, UK; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 18, 2009, British Medical Journal

During CPR, More Chest Compressions Saves More Lives

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When it comes to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) you’re better off doing less mouth-to-mouth and more chest compressions, according to a new study.

CPR consists of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  It is performed on people whose hearts have stopped beating.  Medical experts explain that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation moves oxygen into the lungs of someone who can’t breathe on his own, while chest compressions move blood carrying that oxygen to the heart and the brain.

This year some 800,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the industry trade group.  The average age of a person having a first heart attack is 64 for men and 70 for women.

Researchers found that the odds that someone whose heart has stopped beating will survive goes up markedly when rescuers spend more time giving chest compressions.

The findings emphasize that the chest compressions you do on a loved one are one of the most important things that can be done, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.  They shared the important information recognizing many are untrained or not confident giving mouth-to-mouth ventilation.  Evenn by themselves, chest compressions can make a difference, the medical researchers noted.

Canadian medical researchers examined CPR tracings in over 500 patients who suffered “out-of-hospital” cardiac arrest in the US and Canada.  There was roughly a 10 percent increase in the chance of survival for every 10 percent increase in amount of time that rescuers spend giving chest compressions they found.

Researchers found that the heart began pumping blood effectively on its own about 80 percent of the time when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions, compared to just shy of 60 percent of time when they spent most of their efforts on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Similarly, about one in eight patients survived long enough to go home from the hospital when rescuers spent most of their time on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but that rate of survival doubled when rescuers spent most of their time on chest compressions. 

The study appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association, September 14, 2009.

More Adults At Risk Of Heart Disease

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Only 7.5 percent of Americans are now in the clear when it comes to heart disease risk factors according to a new study.

Resaerchers found that several decades of steady reductions in heart disease may be on the wane.  The obesity epidemic affecting millions of Americans bears much of the blame for the increased risk.  As a result, the decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in the U.S. seems to be coming to an end and may even reverse itself.

A worsening cardiovascular risk profile in the population could potentially lead to increases in the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease, noted researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   The increases in cardiovascular disease and diabetes will affect the nation’s medical costs, stated Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.  Medical costs account for two-thirds of all U.S. bankruptcies, he noted.

The researchers collected data on adults 25 to 74 years of age looking for low-risk factors for heart disease.  These include items such as not smoking, having low blood cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal weight and no sign of diabetes.

Using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the study found that in 1971 to 1975, a paltry 4.4 percent of adults had all five of these heart-healthy factors. However, by 1994 that number had risen to 10.5 percent of adults. 

The latest data, from 2004, found that the fraction of American adults with all five healthy characteristics had dropped to 7.5 percent.  Minorities tended to fare worst, since whites tended to have more low-risk factors than either blacks or Mexican-Americans, the report found.

The reserachers identified three reasons for the backslide in health; decreases in the percentages of adults who were not overweight or obese, a decrease in those who had a favorable blood pressure, and an increase in the number who have diabetes.  There was one bright spot in the report, a decrease in the percentage of adults who were not currently smoking.

Because excess weight is a major cause of diabetes and hypertension, it is critical that the percentage of adults who are overweight or obese be reduced, the researchers noted.  “This alarming development is occurring despite great improvements in medical interventions to prevent cardiovascular diseases,” he said. “It is of particular concern that these trends do not yet reflect the consequences of the current epidemic of childhood obesity.”

If these trends continue, the recent gains in life expectancy in the U.S. will be lost, the medical experts noted.

The study was published in the Sept. 14 online edition of Circulation.

SOURCES: Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Rob M. van Dam, Ph.D., assistant professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School; Boston; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; Sept. 14, 2009, Circulation, online

Cut Salt For Better Health

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

If Americans cut their salt intake to recommended levels, they’d have far fewer cases of high blood pressure, and save billions of dollars in critical illness health care costs.

High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and its complications including heart and kidney disease.  Scientists with the Institute of Medicine recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. The average American, however, consumers about 1,000 mg more than that, according to the authors of the study appearing in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Researchers estimate that if the average sodium intake fell to the recommended level there would be 11 million fewer cases of high blood pressure each year.   According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance estimmates some 70 million American adults have high blood pressure.  The costs of treating high blood pressure and related heart disease and strokes would fall by $18 billion.

While reducing sodium intake sounds simple, it is actually fairly difficult for individuals to do, the researchers noted.  That’s because so much of the sodium Americans consume comes not from their own salt shakers, but from packaged foods and meals eaten out.

SOURCE: American Journal of Health Promotion, September/October.

Coffee Linked To Heart And Stroke Risk

Friday, September 4th, 2009

People who drink lots of coffee but who don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Barcelona.

Researchers studied patients who’d been recently diagnosed with the common heart arrhythmia to supply information about their dietary habits, including caffeine consumption. Their diets were compared with those of people without atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation means the heart’s two upper chambers quiver instead of beating regularly, leading to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increase in the risk of stroke.

According to the scientists, daily coffee intake was divided into four categories: none, low (one cup per-day), medium (two to three cups a day), and heavy (more than three cups).

The individuals participating in the study were cross-ranked according to their adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and includes little red meat.

The report notes that individuals with atrial fibrillation were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet than those without the heart condition. Those with atrial fibrillation also consumed more red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were also more likely to have atrial fibrillation than those who drank less, the study found.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 30, 2009

Strokes Occurring At Younger Ages

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Strokes are no longer an affliction of old age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis found that people in the working ages of life are having strokes with greater regularity than ever before. 

While more people under the age of 65 are suffering strokes, rehabilitation is often not offered to younger people with mild stroke according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, the national trade organization.  Heart attacks, cancer and strokes are the three major critical illnesses affecting Americans.

The study examined data on nearly 8,000 people treated for stroke between 1999 and 2008. Researchers found that 45 percent were under 65 and 27 percent were under the age of 55. This differs drastically from data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which states that 66 percent of all strokes occur in people over 65, the report in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reports.

Most of the strokes among those under 65 were mild.  Individuals typically do not have outward signs of impairment and therefore are discharged with little or no rehabilitation.  The report noted that these individuals have trouble reintegrating back into complex activities of everyday life such as employment.

About 71 percent of patients who had a mild to moderate stroke were discharged directly home, discharged with home services only, or discharged with outpatient services only.   Follow-up with stroke victims revealed that 46 percent of those with a mild stroke said they were working slower, 42 percent said they were not able to do their job as well, 31 percent said they were not able to stay organized and 52 percent said they had problems concentrating.

SOURCES: Timothy J. Wolf, O.T.D., M.S.CI., O.T.R/L, instructor, occupational therapy and neurology and investigator for the Cognitive Rehabilitation Research Group, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Isaacson, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September/October 2009, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

Tobacco Kills 6 Million Annually

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Tobacco use will kill six million people next year from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a range of other ills.

A new report from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco use costs the global economy $500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.

Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone, the report said. If current trends hold, by 2020, the number will grow to an estimated 7 million and top 8 million by 2030.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a tobacco center to oversee cigarettes and other related products, after winning the power to do so from Congress in June. On Tuesday it set up a committee of advisers to help guide it.

Over the past four decades, smoking rates have declined in rich countries like the United States, Britain and Japan while rising in much of the developing world, according to the nonprofit research and advocacy organizations.

Some other findings from the report:

* 1 billion men smoke — 35 percent of men in rich countries and 50 percent of men in developing countries.

* About 250 million women smoke daily — 22 percent of women in developed countries and 9 percent of women in developing countries.

* Smoking rates among women are either stable or increasing in several southern, central and eastern European countries.

* The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher for men who smoke than for nonsmokers and 13 times higher for women smokers.

* Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke. Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than nonsmokers.

* Nearly 60 percent of Chinese men smoke and China consumes more than 37 percent of the world’s cigarettes.

* 50 million Chinese children, mostly boys, will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.

* Tobacco use will eventually kill 250 million of today’s teenagers and children.

* Nearly one-quarter of young people who smoke tried their first cigarette before the age of 10.

* Occupational exposure to secondhand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

Declines In Cancer Deaths

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The scientists note that younger adults between ages 35 and 45 years old experienced the steepest declines in cancer death rates.  They noted that all age groups showed some improvement.  The findings of the study appear in the journal Cancer Research.

The news has both positive and negative implications some experts note.  Surviving cancer often results in an enormous financial toll on both the survivor and their family.  According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance the industry trade group, uncovered medical costs are a leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States.

While U.S. government estimates suggest there had been little improvement in cancer death rates throughout the 20th century, scientists noted the government reports did not tell the whole story.  Researchers used a different way of looking at cancer death rates that measured improvements in cancer deaths by age.

By comparison, government data tends to average all age groups together to produce a composite rate.

Because most cancer deaths occur in older Americans, the average was weighted toward experiences of older people.   Instead, the researchers looked at improvements in cancer deaths among groups of individuals born in five-year intervals starting in 1925.

 Using this methodology, they found that everyone born since the 1930s has enjoyed a decreased risk of cancer death, at every age.  People in the youngest age group (between 35 and 45) had a greater than 25 percent decline per decade in cancer deaths.

Response Times Vary For In-Hospital Heart Attacks

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Quick defibrillation can increase the chances of survival for hospital patients who have cardiac arrest. But sometimes the treatment is not quick enough.

The American Heart Association recommends that defibrillation, a process in which an electronic device gives the heart an electric shock , be performed within two minutes of cardiac arrest.   Defibrillation helps restore normal contraction rhythms in a heart having dangerous arrhythmia or in cardiac arrest. The longer the delay, the less chance the patient has of surviving.

A new study finds that delays are not due to overloaded or undereducated staff.  Previous studies have linked delays to other factors, such as being admitted to the hospital for something other than heart problems or having cardiac arrest at night or on weekends.

According to study, records from nearly 7,500 adult in-patients with cardiac arrest at 200 U.S. hospitals were analyzed. The hospitals completed a detailed survey that included information about the location, hospital teaching status, number of patient beds and the availability of automatic external defibrillators.

The rates of delayed defibrillation — a delay being longer than two minutes — varied from 2.4 percent to more than 50 percent between hospitals, according to the report published in the July 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Differences between hospitals accounted for a great deal of the variation, the researchers found. In one example, patients with identical characteristics had a 46 percent higher chance of having a delayed defibrillation at one hospital compared with another.

Patients at hospitals with fewer defibrillation delays were less likely to die in the hospital. The odds of survival were 41 percent higher in the 25 percent of hospitals with the lowest rates of delays when compared with the 25 percent of hospitals with the most delays, according to the study.